House Robot Developed for Physically Impaired
This is Susan Jacobs' first guest posting for FHIT. You can find out more about her at the end.
People with mobility issues may soon have a more convenient alternative to helper monkeys and dogs. Georgia Tech's Center for Healthcare Robotics has just developed a robot prototype that can assist disabled people in their home. The robot's name is El-E and it is over 5-feet-tall, featuring a large mechanical arm. Though the robot may not have a friendly aesthetic, it could easily become a disabled person's best friend around the house.
The operator of El-E uses a laser pointer to guide the machine. When the laser is pointed at something the person wants, a button can be clicked and El-E moves to the object. There, a mechanical arm extends from El-E's body and the robot literally fetches whatever its operator has selected.
Though El-E was designed with the disabled in mind, this device could have a more widespread appeal eventually. In a Web 2.0 society, people of all kinds may be interested in what the project's director, Charlie Kemp, calls "…a clickable world." Indeed, that is what the El-E creates; a clickable world where anything is available to a person from the seat of their couch.
This robot isn't just convenient, mind you. As I mentioned, many disabled people have found success with the use of helper monkeys and dogs. However, a big draw to that situation is also the companionship. Georgia Tech obviously kept this in mind, as El-E has been programmed to say catchy phrases. It really has its own light-hearted personality, saying things like "Bob's your uncle" when it hands something to you.
Still in a beta phase with this project, the robot's creators will be testing El-E with a large group of disabled patients this summer. No word yet on the cost of this machine for mainstream use, so that could certainly be a big factor in whether people opt to use the El-E in everyday situations. The machine can't be too cheap, as it uses many sensors, cameras and high-tech laser technology.
Another kink that Georgia Tech must work out is the fact that the current prototype only lifts up to 1.2 pounds. It is assumed that this will be improved later. I wouldn't be surprised if every household had a machine like this in the near future, particularly one that is programmed to rummage around the refrigerator.
Susan Jacobs is a part-time teacher, as well as a regular contributor for NOEDb, a site for learning about and selecting an online nursing degree program. Susan invites your comments and freelancing job inquiries at her email address firstname.lastname@example.org